May 26, 2019
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
My favorite experience as a Pastor is hearing about the life of folks in this community when I’m not around. I love it when y’all get up to being the Family of God during the week. I mean, I love leading worship and preaching, leading book studies and community organizing trainings, I even love Session meetings with you all, filled with laughter and sharing the dreams God has for this place, even coordinating emergency rooter-rooter serving of our Bathroom. But there is a particular joy when I hear about what y’all get up to when I’m not around.
Last week, folks from MPC and volunteers from the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy planted our Rain Gardens, and I was in Nashville seeing a reading of one of Eric’s new plays. Afterwards, the Erdmans put together a basketball hoop for our kids that had been donated by Joy Brown’s husband. There are days I walk up and see you working on the gardens, tending to the bees, mowing the lawn of the Memorial Garden, walking the labyrinth. And then the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing updates from our Holy Listeners, who have been meeting with families with young children in our area, and the stories that have been getting back to me make my heart sing; folks finding new friends, being moved by the stories and pressures that families face, creating relationships that have the power to transform not only our little church in the woods, but families and schools and our county.
Our scripture passage this morning reminds me that Jesus is on the loose in our world, and we never quite know when and where he’s going to show up. In the Resurrection account from Luke, Folks outside the official power structure of the early church, aren’t the ones who hear about the Resurrection first. It’s the women who discover the angels and tell their brothers. But they don’t believe them. Why would God tell these women first, and not them? But Jesus doesn’t give up on the future Apostles; he appears on the Road to Emmaus, walking alongside Cleopas and Simon, opening up the scriptures to their understanding, and then revealing himself to them by having a cookout on the road. Then it hits them; “Weren’t our hearts on fire? Why didn’t we recognize Jesus when he was right in front of us?”
In your daily lives, I hear about Jesus showing up all the time. There are so many moments when you set my heart aflame with the presence of Christ. I love you all so very much, and you remind me that Jesus is on the loose in our world. I’ve been hearing about the Feasting in Faith dinners that Linda, Mark and Sheldon coordinated, of the relationships you’re building, how powerful it is to share stories together. I’m not surprised; I know theologically that Jesus walking with you, and this text reminds me to not dismiss it as an idle tale; God is on the loose, showing up, asking for some BBQ, breaking scones and drinking coffee among us, through people we live with.
Y’all are practicing Resurrection as a community in all kinds of beautiful ways, and I love that this is a place where we get to share our stories with one another about where we’ve encountered the Risen Christ along the Way. It is revitalizing this congregation. I know Jesus is up to something out in the world, as more and more folks find their ways through our doors, visitors and new members, folks who hear about what we’re up to and want to journey along with us. Like the early Disciples, we’re not quite sure where we are headed, but you’ve got your eyes open, and your hearts attuned to take notice for when they are set aflame, from concerts and experiences of the arts, to your gardens, your Amaryllis’, bee hives and book discussions, to conversations around your kitchen tables, coffee shops, your children’s schools, our neighboring Mosques and Synagogues.
So, keep sharing your stories of being set aflame with the holy; share with one another the conversations that make you pause and think “What is God up to? How are we being called to partner in making all things new?” We continue the disciples’ journey from the empty tomb, past Emmaus, to the ends of the earth, to Pentecost and beyond. These experiences are how Jesus can open the scriptures to us, to see God still at work and alive in our world.
It’s not always easy to recognize that we are in the presence of the Holy, as we are going along our way. So, to help us to take notice, this summer we have opportunities to gather and reflect on the moments during the week when our hearts are on fire. On Wednesday nights, throughout the summer, starting June 5th, we will gather at 7:00 pm for our Spiritual Practice Gatherings. Folks of all ages and abilities who want to practice being loved by God and neighbor more are invited to join us as we engage in different spiritual practices, from the Examen, to walking the labyrinth, centering prayer to lectio divina, utilizing the beauty of our property to experience The Holy in our midst. We will have games and activities, along with spaces for stillness and contemplation. And for our families with children, and especially for new folks we’re meeting along the way, we will have inter-generational Summer Soul Nights, with a Family friendly Dinner starting at 6:00 PM on Wednesday June 26th, July 31st, and August 28th. These will be a time of sharing a meal, telling stories from our week, participating in an intergenerational devotion, and then we will play. These activities will be a chance to grow as disciples for folks of all ages, abilities, beliefs and doubts alike. Who knows, maybe Jesus will join us for a hotdog, and a walk the labyrinth alongside us. I don’t have a plan for where this will lead us, but just as I trust that Jesus will keep showing up for you, I have faith that we will discover the path, the way, the Lord wishes for us to go. Thanks be to God, in the name of the Living God who was, is, and evermore shall be. amen.